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Photography Tips – Shutter Speed

Written by Rachel Gnagy

Written By:  Rachel @ Inscribed Photography

Hello there! It’s been a while since I’ve written… but I promise I have a good excuse!

isaiah

Isaiah Samuel was born on March 23 – two weeks ahead of schedule, which kind of ruined my plan of writing up a few posts for HVFH ahead of time. Oh well. =) We have been loving every minute with Isaiah. The Lord is so faithful – Isaiah’s name means ‘God is my salvation’ and our prayer is that we will be able to teach Isaiah that very thing.

Okay, enough bragging about my baby. Let’s get back to talking about photography!

Last time we talked about aperture; aperture controls how wide your lens opening is as well as how much of the picture is in focus. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO make up the ‘exposure triangle’. These three settings work together to give us the overall exposure of the picture we’re taking. Today we’ll be talking about shutter speed.

Shutter speed refers to how long your camera’s shutter is open. The ‘click’ sound that a film camera or a DSLR makes is the shutter opening and closing. When you change your shutter speed, you change how long the shutter is staying open.

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The longer the shutter is open, the longer your camera is actually taking the picture. This allows the camera to take in more light which usually results in a brighter picture. Let’s look at some examples of what different shutter speeds look like.

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 For this image, I wanted to capture a droplet of water falling from a melting icicle. This required a super fast shutter speed – 1/3200 of a second! This fast shutter speed allowed me to freeze the action of the falling drop of water.

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I used a fast shutter speed (1/1600 of a second) here to capture Sam in midair as he made a jump on his snowboard. I love the way the powdery snow he kicked up with his board is frozen in place, too.

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Rain is just fun to capture. You’ll never see the same pattern of droplets twice. I used a fast shutter speed here but certainly nothing as fast as the icicle picture above. I only needed to shoot at 1/400 of a second to capture the splash of the raindrops.

So fast shutter speeds can be used to ‘freeze’ action. When you’re shooting sports, typically you want to capture the ball in midair or someone jumping or another moment of action. You would want to use a faster shutter speed for this. But what about slow shutter speeds?

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Talk about slow – the shutter speed for this picture was 5 seconds! This slow shutter speed allowed my camera to capture the movement of the lights on this carnival ride.
When using slow shutter speeds, you will want to use a tripod or set your camera on a stable surface before taking the picture. Since the shutter is open for so long, any movement by the camera will make a blurry picture.

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Have you ever wondered how photographers get that soft, silky look to water? Slow shutter speeds. This picture was taken with a two-second shutter speed. Because the water is moving through the picture for two seconds, the movement is blurred and gives it that silky look.

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Compared to two- and five-second exposures, 1/4 of a second doesn’t seem all that slow. But look at how much blurred motion is in this picture! Sometimes you don’t need to freeze the action – blurred action can give your image a feeling of movement and speed.

Summing it up:

  • Shutter speed is how long your camera’s shutter is staying open; that is, how long the picture is being taken.
  • Shutter speed works together with aperture and ISO to make the overall exposure of the picture.
  • Fast shutter speeds can freeze action, but they typically make a darker picture since not as much light is getting into the camera.
    Slow shutter speeds blur action and allow a lot of light into the camera.
  • Check out the Digital Camera Simulator to experiment with how shutter speed works.

Well, does shutter speed make more sense now? I hope so! Please comment with any questions you might have – I would be happy to help you in any way I can!

About the author

Rachel Gnagy

Rachel Gnagy is a wife, mother, photographer, and coffee lover. She began Inscribed Design & Photography with the goal of inspiring others to experience God’s character and glory through her work. Rachel specializes in senior portraits, engagements and weddings, and fine art photography. She and her husband, Samuel, have three precious children, two boys and a girl.
Rachel began writing with Her View From Home in 2012 and loves the opportunity to communicate with other women. She shares her own images, photography tips, and favorite recipes.
http://www.inscribedphotography.com/
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